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Clashes between US, regime forces present new challenges for Russia in Syria

Northeastern Syria's volatile mix of players is proving to be a tough test for Russia.
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A US military facility in northeastern Syria, in the eastern part of the Deir ez-Zor region, came under rocket fire Aug. 19, with several shells falling in the vicinity of a US base near the Conoco oil field. On Aug. 17, an armed incident occurred between an American patrol and Syrian military personnel near the city of Qamishli in adjoining Hasakah province. After the sides exchanged fire at a checkpoint, a Syrian solider was killed; while the Syrian state news agency SANA said the soldier was killed by fire from US helicopter gunships, the US command said there was only an exchange of ground fire.

These incidents should serve as another signal for the Russian command, which has found itself in a very risky position in the so-called trans-Euphrates region. Moscow does not have the necessary leverage on the Syrian regime to prevent Syrian provocations against the Americans, nor does it have sufficient forces to carry out effective military operations. The region in question is the left bank of the Euphrates river, which Russian and Syrian troops entered last fall on the basis of an agreement with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in order to prevent the advance of Turkish troops during Operation Peace Spring.

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